Sewage treatment has been a major issue for some years around Greater Victoria.
West Shore municipalities will continue to play key roles in 2015 in determining a solution to the challenge, but to varying degrees, depending on where you stand.
Colwood was the first municipality in the Capital Region to consider going with its own treatment system and had that decision approved by the CRD board back in March.
But with the location of a regional treatment plant up in the air after the Town of Esquimalt rejected the use of McLoughlin Point as a main site, the conversations have seen the West Shore figure in a potential west side solution.
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, whose municipality only has about 25 per cent of its residents on sewer, expects the game may change somewhat with the region’s largest municipalities still without a treatment plant site.
“Wastewater management is going to take up a considerable amount of the priorities this year,” she said. “We have deadlines to meet.”
The region has until 2020 to stop pumping untreated sewage into the ocean, according to the federal mandate. The original provincial deadline was 2018.
“That sounds like a long time, but really it’s only three years,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech, who sees dealing with the sewage issue as the No. 1 priority.
Langford Mayor Stew Young acknowledges treatment is coming to the West Shore in some form. He is growing frustrated with money continuing to be funnelled to the project by his taxpayers and those in other jurisdictions, with little concrete results to show for it. He figures the project cost is bound to go higher than the original $792 million.
“We need to make sure we stick to a budget and (if it goes higher), the politicians need to be a part of that discussion,” he said.
Outside of sewage, transportation is the other key issue facing West Shore municipalities.
Young doesn’t normally drive in the traffic gridlock that grips the Trans-Canada Highway daily during the work week like many of his city’s residents, but he is keen on reducing the problem.
One of his hopes for 2015 is that the province will locate a ministry office in Langford – closer to where many employees live – possibly as a pilot project to remove some vehicles from the main road to town.
“All I need is one (office) to show them how well it could work,” Young says. “Private companies do that, why can’t government?”
He remembers being told around 20 years ago that locating government offices away from Victoria’s downtown core would be difficult due to the frequency of couriered paperwork between sites. The advent of email takes that excuse out of the conversation, he says.
Island Corridor Foundation executive director Graham Bruce recently described to Langford council the ICF’s plans for renewed rail service on the Island, plans that don’t initially include a main stop in the city.
Coun. Lanny Seaton was flabbergasted that a service to Victoria wouldn’t have Langford as a main stop, but Bruce assured council that a commuter service would be considered at a later date.
Screech believes that rail service should be a key ingredient to solve transportation issues on the West Shore.
“In terms of the growing congestion and the backup of traffic, the need for a commuter rail and different ways to start moving people from the West Shore to downtown (is a high priority).”
View Royal has to start looking at the broader transportation picture, he said. “I’m a big believer that we need a regional transport authority, so that we have a more cohesive plan in place.”
Meanwhile, recently announced transit service expansion in Langford and Colwood is a good initial step in reducing traffic congestion, Hamilton said. Her municipality plans to do a review of transportation and traffic patterns.
In the rural jurisdictions of Metchosin and Highlands, different issues are on the front burner.
In Highlands, Mayor Ken Williams and his council are concerned with groundwater protection and a growing number of secondary suites, while Metchosin Mayor John Ranns expects to keep working toward maintaining the rural lifestyle residents there have grown to love.
While neither municipality contributes much to the sewage situation, residents of both add cars to the glut on the Trans Canada Highway each day.